rejecting requests from his commanders on the ground that they be allowed to retreat from the vital southern city of Kherson.
A withdrawal from Kherson would allow the Russian military to pull back across the Dnipro River in an orderly way, preserving its equipment and saving the lives of soldiers.
But such a retreat would be another humiliating public acknowledgment of Mr. Putin’s failure in the war, and would hand a second major victory to Ukraine in one month.
As you can see on the map above, Russia holds an area measuring about 250 by 80 km on the west bank of the Dnipro River, just north of Crimea. The Dnipro is a really big river. All the bridges over the river have been destroyed by Ukrainian missile attacks, so Russian supplies have to be carried across on barges. Opinions differ as to how bad the situation is for Russian troops on the west bank. Some observers think front line units regularly run out of ammunition and are ready to crack. On the other hand they have not cracked, and Ukraine's small gains in the region have come at a heavy price.
Some of the most insidery western sources are downright gleeful about the situation, so I guess US intelligence thinks things are bad for the Russians. I have seen a few bold predictions of a major impending victory for Ukraine. If Russian commanders have actually asked to withdraw, they must also be nervous.
Putin is not having it. In his defense you might note that his commanders have performed abysmally, so maybe he is wise not to trust them. But all the precedents here are bad for Russia; I'm sure every Russian officer knows what happened to Soviet troops frozen in place by Stalin's "not one step backward" orders in 1941-42.